When creating a company from the ground up, many people are so focused on accounting practices, staffing and product development, that they forget one of the most crucial and defining pieces of any good brand: their brand story.
Know your brand story
As far from an afterthought as you can get, a brand story should be one of the FIRST things you create when it comes to your business. So what is a brand story, exactly? Think of it the same way you think of a really great book.
You know when you read the back cover of a book what it’s going to be about. Is it a historical biography? Memoir? Is it a romance novel? A thriller? Is it about espionage or treason? By reading the first paragraph or, sometimes, even a single sentence, we know what to expect. The words help us understand what the story will be about.
Craft your verbal identity
Crafting your verbal identity – i.e. your story in written form – is the first place to start when creating a vision and a voice for your brand. The Oxford College of Marketing defines brand storytelling as “a strategy that can help you increase your audience by creating an emotional connection with them.
Your brand story is an amalgamation of who you are, what you do, what you care about and how you help people. It’s essentially the story of why your brand exists and why people should interact with you.” Right after you’ve created your verbal identity, you must find corresponding images that match the tone and message you’ve created for yourself. This is your visual identity.
Create a visual identity around your brand story
We know just how crucial high-quality images are to marketing success, because once you find the words to tell your brand story, photos help you tell your story in a completely different, more subliminal way. As the saying goes, we “eat with our eyes,” so when we look at a menu, we are drawn to the way food looks in the photos and will often choose our meal based on photos alone. Same goes for marketing. Customers frequently choose companies to support based on the way their products look or the way information is presented in a visual way.
We’ve certainly seen many companies fail in this regard – like the time U.S. brand, Colgate, which makes toothpaste, decided to create a line of frozen food. Who would associate dinner with toothpaste? Needless to say, the brand failed miserably in their efforts, and it had everything to do with the way we SEE our food. It’s very different than how we see toothpaste! So to imagine toothpaste when looking at food is a very bad visual.
As we know from both the failures and successes of big brands, there’s a right way and a wrong way to present yourself. And when using stock imagery, like those found with Jumpstory, it’s key to stay far away from images that are not relevant to your brand and don’t represent who you are and what you stand for (like toothpaste and frozen food!).
If you use a photo of people pointing to a chalk board or staring at a spreadsheet, how does that tell people who you are? You’ve got to find a way to be more emotional and authentic with your audience, and we know that the first impression you make is the most important. And, generally, you’ve got less than five seconds to wow someone, so you need to make it count.
Don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone
Sometimes, surprising people is a great way to get them intrigued, and often the best form of surprise is by going beyond what you’d normally think to do. If you sell landscaping services, the most obvious choice might be to show a lawn or someone pushing a lawnmower. That is definitely an accurate depiction of what you do, but is it who or what you are as a brand?
Perhaps you believe in giving people their ultimate backyard dreams. Maybe you set yourself apart because you build custom greenhouses with fairy lights and gnome villages or urban farming plots, complete with chicken coops or trellises for growing artichokes or brilliant sunflowers.
That has a bit of a magic feel and is definitely unique in this particular space, so why not think about images that evoke the magic that you create? Maybe an outdoor scene with a beautiful farm dinner, complete with elegant tableware and candles or solar lights? A canopy of flowers, perhaps?
By surprising your customers and setting yourself apart from the competition, who likely all have photos of nice lawns, YOU are telling your story in a unique and creative way. Of course, your verbal identity must also match this new visual identity, but that is easy to do when you know who you are and what you offer!
In summary, don’t forget that you need two things tell your story: the way you look to others (photos) and the way you sound to others (words). When you combine these in well thought out and creative ways, you will separate yourself from the competitors, and shine as a brand because you have a story that people will remember!
About the author
Pete Canalichio is an award-winning author of the Amazon #1 New Release, “Expand, Grow, Thrive” (2018) and TEDx speaker. He has worked in brand strategy, expansion and licensing for the past 20 years for The Coca-Cola Company, Newell Brands and most recently, BrandAlive, a Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business that he founded in 2009.
Throughout his career, Pete has operated in the global arena, having worked in more than 40 countries and managed extensive projects across national and continental borders.